“the current estimated literacy rate of 49.1% is still way below expected international standards”

Daughters of Charity

Ethiopia has one of the youngest populations in the world, with the median age of an Ethiopian being 18.8 years old. Given this startling statistic, it is easy to understand the importance of quality education for the future of the nation. With so many young people, provisions for a quality and comprehensive education could truly transform Ethiopia in the coming years. This is one of the many reasons the Daughters of Charity believe their work in education to be one of the cornerstones of their work to improve the lives of as many Ethiopian people as possible.

Ethiopia has been striving to improve the education system over the past 30 years. Before 1974, illiteracy rates in Ethiopia were well over 90%. After the 1974 revolution, emphasis was placed on increasing literacy in rural areas. Further and more recent efforts by the current government, including a concerted attempt to provide free and universal primary education to the whole population, has seen this situation improve somewhat. However, the current estimated literacy rate of 49.1% is still way below expected international standards, and even low compared to many other African countries.

Enrolment rates, particularly at primary school level, are also relatively positive, with 90% of seven-year-olds enrolled. However, the completion rates at this level are less so, with 52.8% completing grade 8. The majority of children do not continue to Grade 9 and 10. A study by the Welfare Monitoring Survey discovered that Ethiopia has the world’s third largest out of school population. As one can imagine, the problems in education can seriously stunt a countries development. A small increase in any of these statistics could lead to large positive changes in many aspects of development.

A more educated society translates in to higher rates of innovation and entrepreneurship, better production methods and faster introduction of new technology. It can also have many social benefits, such as stopping the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDs, improving awareness of importance of equality and allowing for family planning.

Problems within the Ethiopian education system are varied and complex. Whilst attitudes toward schooling is improving, a study by UNESCO suggested that most people consider work to be more important than education. Parents often see sending their children to school as a lost opportunity for the children to contribute to the household finances and chores, particularly for poorer families. Boys are often expected to rear cattle and other animals whilst girls are expected to help with other children, household chores or fetching water. These tasks can take several hours each day. For this reason, even when education is available, many children miss out on going to school. The Welfare Monitoring Survey found that over half of unenrolment in school is down to family unwillingness. It is therefore clear that much work needs to be done convincing many as to the importance of schooling and the positive effects it can have on families and the country as a whole. This is one of the main challenges faced by the Daughters of Charity, and much of their work in education is focused on providing schooling for the poorest in society whose families might otherwise encourage their children to stay home from school.

Another problem are the education divides in both urban and rural areas and between boys and girls. Urban areas generally see much higher provision and quality of education than rural areas. For example, 85% of boys can read in urban areas, compared to 58% in rural areas. Gender disparities are also large. Ethiopia is ranked 126th out of 127 countries in the Education for All development index, suggesting an unusually high disparity in education. Adult (15 and over) literacy for males, for example, is 42%, whilst for females it is 18%. Again, some of these problems tend to arise from social ideas of what a woman should be doing, including the social importance of early marriage and the idea that a successful woman is one who knows how to look after the home. The disparities described above are all of high concern for the Daughters of Charity in Ethiopia, and their numerous educational enterprises seek to address these problems specifically and effectively. The focus in education is often centred around the education of females and those in rural areas.

Overall our projects provide 8,226 students from various age groups with quality education, improving not just their lives but the lives of their families and future generations.


Pre-school education is somewhere children aged three to seven are taught before going to school.

Immaculate Conception

One excellent example of the work the Daughters of Charity do in early schooling is at the ‘Immaculate Conception House’ in Maichew.

Bld. Odile House

Not just the provision, but the quality of education, is very important to the Daughters of Charity.

Saint Joseph Catholic School, Bulbula

Primary School education in Ethiopia comprises of grades 1 – 8

St Mary’s School

Saint Mary’s school is just one great example of the brilliant work being done by the Daughters of Charity in education around Ethiopia.

Danka House, Dembidollo

Danka House, Dembidollo

An incredible project undertaken in Danka, Dembidollo, has provided board for around 320 girls since its conception in 2001.

Atse Tekleghiorgis Catholic School

As discussed before, completion rates for primary school in Ethiopia is at 52.8%.

St. Justin de Jacobis House

This house is an excellent example of the work being done in post-primary education for rural girls.